WASHINGTON – Congress will have a narrow opportunity when it returns to pass legislation making it a crime to use video cameras to record films in movie theaters, but the bill could be floored by a fight over a federal boxing commission.
The House would need to approve the copyright (search) proposals when it reconvenes early next month to consider controversial intelligence reforms.
The Senate over the weekend passed the "Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2004 (search)," which cracks down on movie piracy (search). The bill also offers some copyright protections for fledgling technology that helps parents prevent children from watching movie scenes depicting sex, violence or foul language.
About 10 states already prohibit people recording movies inside theaters. The Senate bill would permit local and state police to make arrests even when officers don't personally witness the illicit recording. Movie-goers caught would face up to three years in prison for a first offense, and up to six years for later arrests.
Some controversial copyright provisions were dropped in the Senate bill, such as a proposal to make it easier for the Justice Department to prosecute Internet users who illegally distribute more than 1,000 copyrighted files. Those users already face high civil penalties if they are caught and sued.
Provisions of the Senate copyright bill previously passed under other legislation in the House but would need to be approved again because of minor differences between the bills. Industry and consumer lobbyists, however, believe the copyright proposals could be derailed in the House because of unrelated boxing reforms added to the measure.
"We'll see how this plays out," said Mitch Bainwol, chief executive of the Recording Industry Association of America, the trade group for the largest record labels. "They'll either work it out in December or early next year."
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., appended a proposal to create a three-person commission — appointed by the president — to license boxers, managers, promoters and sanctioning organizations. It would impose uniform health and safety standards, establish a centralized medical registry and provide uniform ranking criteria and contractual guidelines.
Similar legislation was introduced in the House but was never passed.
"I don't know whether this is a poison pill for the bill," said Alan Davidson, associate director for the Washington-based Center for Democracy and Technology. "These were a carefully crafted set of copyright provisions, but it's an open question whether the House will accept them with the boxing legislation attached."